I almost decided not to post this one. It’s a bit of a cautionary tale, as well as a lot of UPG regarding my own self. It’s going to get a little Real for a few minutes. If death and dying are touchy subjects for you, I don’t blame you if you ignore this one.
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding past lives. Everyone, I think, explores the idea at least once, wondering if they were someone important, if they left a mark on the world somehow. If they left a legacy. For most people, it seems that no memories come back, knowledge remains elusive, and they end up putting the idea away never to return, except as speculation, jokes(“must have been a ___ in my past life or something”), or curiosity. Some people are on their first incarnation, and so wouldn’t really have anything to remember. Others are so old or have lived so many times it would be a mess trying to figure everything out. Then there’s me.
I’m a bit of a weird case where past lives and Remembering are concerned. I haven’t been around that long as far as the universe is concerned, and over that time I haven’t had a huge number of incarnations. I spent about a thousand and a bit years in Vanaheim when I was first learning how to Be, a couple lifetimes on earth, another couple hundred in Vanaheim, and then back on earth, with frequent visits to Hel in between. I remember a lot of it. Not the tedious minutia, of course. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast last week at this time, let alone on a Monday morning back in 812 CE or whenever. I remember the kinds of things that would stick with a person. Some lives, I remember more of than others. I was a Mongolian hunter once, and all I remember about that life was one scene of aiming my bow at a deer(the style of archery gave the Mongolian bit away). I remember a little bit of my two lives in Vanaheim, particularly my death at the hands of some Jotnar that didn’t take too kindly to me wandering over their border. I remember a lot of deaths, and a lot of injuries, and not as many happy moments, though I know they must have been there. I remember meeting Hel for the first time(she still scares me) and seeing what the lands of the dead looked like. I remember what it was like to walk the Hel-road, both ways, and step from one existence into another.
There is one life that I remember almost all of, where the name Arnbjorn comes from. I started remembering when I had a dream about someone teaching me how to use an axe, and calling me that name. The rest came in fits and bursts, sometimes in dreams and sometimes I’d get reminded of something in waking life and drift back to Viking-age Scandinavia for a while. I had a wife named Orlaith(or Arla, as I thought it was spelled at the time) that had been brought over from somewhere in England, who I “won” in a duel with a young King Eirik, in which he gave me the scar on my face that nearly took out my left eye(toward the end of that life some people started calling me Grimnir because I resembled Odin a lot). I had a son, though I don’t remember his name, who ended up dragging me ashore at the battle of Hafsfjord after another berserker cut my arm off, stabbed me through the left lung, and I fell overboard. I remember so much about that life I could probably tell you which hill I died on, if you took me there.
I’ve had six human incarnations that I can remember, including the current one(which, statistically, makes me human). I have to say, the most terrifying moment I ever had while trying to Remember was when I wandered out into the living room while my mom was watching something on the American Revolution, and having the names Bradford, William, and Thomas pop into my head. I ended up finding a picture of William Bradford(who had a son named Thomas) and showing it to my sister in a moment of “wait, am I crazy or is this actually happening?”
The point of all of this is that when you remember so much, you run into difficulties. You remember how strong you were, how much you could do, how you used to think, and what you could have changed. You see, from the perspective of time, what marks you did or didn’t leave on the world. You see how strong, smart, talented, and capable you used to be and end up thinking, “wow! I used to be so much stronger/wiser/more important than I am now.” A sense of urgency kicks in, trying to figure out what you’re meant to do in this lifetime before it, inevitably, ends. Paranoia slips in through the back door and you start fearing, in moments of utter disconnect, the day that you lose those closest to you. You start shutting people out, hoping to spare yourself a little bit of pain before the reality sinks in and you realize, “oh yeah. I’m still young yet. I’ve got some time before I lose people again.” Which leads to wondering whether or not you’re just making all of this up in an attempt to make yourself feel important, before another “coincidence” smacks you in the face with truth and you Remember, all over again. Getting shot at. Getting stabbed. Beheaded. Feeling sickness wither your body away until once again, you stand before the golden gates and wonder how you ever forgot. A sense of hopelessness sets in. “What the hell is the point in all this if I’m just going to die in the end anyway?”
The point is to live. To teach. To learn. The point is to create, and love, and find those moments of magic and struggle that make for good stories. The point is to Be, and in Being, to connect, and continue. The world is made of so many grains of sand. No single one is more or less important than any other.
With the benefit of perspective comes the burden of wisdom. The more I learn about myself, and the world, the more I relate to the phrase, “ignorance is bliss.” And yet, with the memories of war, terror, sorrow, hunger, and rage comes a deep respect and empathy for those who live through that Now. I would never call myself a warrior to one who has seen gunfire and heard the desperate cries of the dying in this life. For me, time has dulled some of the edges. Healed some of the scars. I deal with the traumas of my current life with the knowledge that I’ve had much worse, and do my best not to belittle the struggles of those around me. When it comes down to it, if you’re going to remember a life, the tragedies come back first, and I don’t want to be the one, in some future version of someone else’s life, that they remember as a monster.
I am what I am. And what I am is a haphazardly sewn-together collection of shards of Myself. I am who I was, but They are not me. It’s a strange feeling. (And no, I still don’t know what in Hel’s name I’m supposed to be doing here.)
I think this is why most people don’t remember anything from Before. It’s painful, it’s cruel sometimes, it makes you feel insignificant and “not good enough.” Love is a strong emotion as well, and feeling that again, for someone long gone, can be destructive. Many people—I’d argue most people—can’t deal with the crushing weight of so much time and memory without losing themselves in the process. Or, they shouldn’t have to. Not everyone needs to remember who they used to be. Not everyone has to re-learn the Lessons they figured out in their other lives.
However, for those of you who are like me, and are too far down the rabbit hole to back out now, if you’re in that place where you’re feeling like a failure because you’re not doing something now that you were capable of Before, know this: it does get better. After the tragedies come moments of beauty. Of standing with your loved ones and watching the sun set in a glorious array of color over a distant land. Of the small moments, joking around with your friends and laughing. Joy comes back. Wonder. Curiosity. You start finding similarities and realizing that, even though you aren’t who you used to be, you still carry some of that strength with you. Sometimes, on the darkest days, remembering the brightest moments of your past can be the thing that keeps you going.
The light that shines in darkness is the brightest of them all. Keep walking your own path, my friends. Whether you also deal with this or not. 🙂 Be good to yourself. You deserve it.